It only takes 3 hours from Taipei to Tainan by train. Trains run fast, but remember to slow down your steps when you arrive in Tainan. Here I propose 5 ways to enjoy the oldest city in Taiwan. Let’s leave the hustle and bustle of Taipei City behind and follow Tainanese slow pace.
1. Discover small shops in narrow alleys
Popular tourist spots are close to each other in Tainan. You can either rent a scooter or travel by foot. However, I suggest you walk more than ride a scooter because the interesting part of Tainan is to find hidden shops in secret alleys. The thrift shop, Lutai, is not in a small alley, but there’s no obvious sign in front of the store. If you don’t know the address, it is likely that you’ll miss it. There are 4 floors at Lutai. They sell containers like vases and bowls on 1st floor. When you go upstairs, you’ll love it if you like collecting old posters, wind-up toys, cassettes, etc.. The 3rd floor is their studio. And on the 4th floor, you’ll find second-hand chairs and suitcases. If you are into vintage stuffs, Lutai is totally the place for you.
2. Eat non-stop:
Tainan is known for street food. You can get recommendation from hostels, but be sure to check opening hours of stands/restaurants before going. I saw a holiday notice at a coffee shop that shows how important day-offs are to Tainan people. It said, “Resting is human right.” (It’s ironic for me as Taiwanese people work a lot in general) Anyways, if you would like to hunt for good food before 2pm, check out the traditional market near Water Fairy Temple (水仙宮市場) or Guohua Street (國華街). You may stalk, I mean, “ask” local people to get first-hand local food information. If you crave for something sweet in the afternoon, several fruit and ice cream shops are on Zhengyi Road(正義路). In the evening, stands at Bao-an Road(保安路) and Garden Night Market (花園夜市) are opening one by one. It is suggested that you share dishes if you travel with friends; in this way, you can taste different kinds of Tainan street food all day long.
3. Visit historic spots:
As the oldest city in Taiwan, a lot of historic buildings are situated in Tainan. There are Confucius Temple, Fort Provintia and Former Old Tainan Magistrate Residence in Tainan city area. In Anping District, you can visit Eternal Golden Castle, Fort Zeelandia and Taiyan Japanese Dorm. We have been governed by Dutch people, Zheng Chenggong, Qing Dynasty and Japanese people. By visiting the ancient buildings mentioned above, it is easy to capture the history of Taiwan. Besides, you can also find a variety of construction styles left by different governance. It might be difficult to sleep in historic buildings, but staying at a hostel transformed from an old house is pretty close. A lot of hostels in Tainan feature their nostalgic atmosphere, which is something you can hardly find in other cities in Taiwan.
Anping Treehouse: Old trees and the wooden house coexist quietly.
4. Take a look at Blueprint:
To save Hai-An Road from failed road-widening project, the government had invited artists and architects to transform this road. The Blueprint designed by Liu Guo Cang immediately became one of the most popular tourist spots in Tainan. It also became collective memory of local people. However, the wall is private estate; the landowner of Blueprint decided to retake the house and print the wall back to white in 2015. Now the government organizes a new “Blueprint Cultural & Creative Park” at Section 1, Ximen Road, right in the opposite side of Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store. Besides the new blueprint, you’ll find a drama company, boutiques, and restaurants in this area. The Blueprint was changed from 2D to 3D, from an old house to a new building. I hope there will be more stores or galleries that are connected with Tainan City. Otherwise, this creative park is only another department store.
The old Blueprint on Hai-An Road. Now is only a white wall.
The new Blue print is on Sec. 1, Ximen Road
5. Grab a drink at open-air bars:
There are several open-air bars and restaurants on Hai-An Road. It is very cozy to come here at night. Drinking and chatting on sidewalk, enjoy watching people and being watching at the same time.
Besides Hai-An Road, there are some feature bars at Shennong Street. Most people go to 太古Taikoo, where is known for its vintage style.
I suggest you take a look at Do Right Coffee & Green Kitchen. They sell pour-over coffee and Japanese craft beers. Since the owner is very interested in exotic cuisine, he brought food tips from Myanmar back to Taiwan. This is a great place for those who like to try something new. You might have the chance to taste beers from Myanmar if you are lucky enough.
“Do Right Coffee & Green Kitchen” is at No. 144, Shennong Street. They sell craft beers, coffee, Myanmar dishes and hand-dyed clothes.
Life in Tainan is really relaxing. I often forget to notice if the traffic light has turned to green or not. One of the reasons is that I do not see so many people on the street. On the other hand, I cannot find little green traffic-light-man running at every intersection. What I learn from Tainan is: the less convenient life is, the less anxious people are.